Offshore Aquaculture

Funded by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Collaboration with Scottish Association for Marine Science.

Aquaculture is an important industry for the UK. Employing more than 8,000 people, mostly in remote locations where other job opportunities are scarce and with exports worth in excess of £500 million. There are several bottlenecks on the expansion of aquaculture industry on the UK like the sea lice problem, harmful algal blooms and environment restrictions of space and pollution in close environments. One of the solutions presented is the migration of aquaculture to more exposed, dispersive environments but the impact of these offshore aquaculture site conditions onto the environment and the fish require scientific evaluation. Assessment of the potential for the migration of aquaculture to more energetic “offshore” environments is timely given the demand for increase production and difficulties of further expansion of the industry within the sea loch environment. The underlying rationale for migration of aquaculture to more dispersive “offshore” environments is therefore based on hypotheses that: • These environments are more dispersive of wastes and chemical treatments [leading to increased dilution and reduced negative impact]. • Dispersive environments will reduce the pressure of sea lice [through reducing retention and exchange of lice between sites as well as reducing exchange with wild populations]. • Offshore environments are less likely to be impacted by harmful algal blooms [that more easily proliferate in the “incubator” of a restricted exchange sea loch] • Fish health and welfare [reducing sea lice infestations and Amoebic Gill Disease (AGD) prevalence would improve fish health and welfare].

In this project we will therefore characterise, in detail, the physical environments of contrasting fish farm sites (existing and hypothetical), allowing us to test the above hypotheses using mathematical modelling tools.

Specifically, we will use existing state of the art modelling tools that are currently used to address dispersive and connectivity issues in aquaculture, but these tools will be used critically, with an eye to evaluating their appropriateness in this new environment. Shortcomings or potential improvements in methodologies will be highlighted. With our detailed physical observations and modelling tools we will then be able to evaluate a number of other key impacts, on fish health and HAB risk, resulting from offshore migration of the industry. The result will be a set of tools and understanding that underpin site selection, enabling the industry to expand in a manner that minimises environmental consequences. Stirling university research group on health and welfare would be leading WP1 on health and welfare of fish under offshore aquaculture systems. We will obtain physiological and metabolic data from 5 offshore farm sites and this data will be used to inform the model being created in WP3 and correlated with the physical/oceanographic information provided by the other work packages (current speed and variability, temperature, salinity and waves) also other information like algal blooms and sea lice and discharge dispersal models will be incorporated. This would allow us the study of temporal response to environmental conditions.


Total award value £164,704.00

People (1)


Dr Sonia Rey Planellas

Dr Sonia Rey Planellas

Associate Professor, Aquaculture

Outputs (3)



Szewczyk TM, Morro B, Díaz-Gil C, Gillibrand PA, Hardwick JP, Davidson K, Aleynik D & Planellas SR (2024) Interactive effects of multiple stressors with significant wave height exposure on farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) welfare along an inshore-offshore gradient. Rey Planellas S (Project Leader) Aquaculture, 579, Art. No.: 740184.


Vera LM, de Alba G, Santos S, Szewczyk TM, Mackenzie SA, Sánchez-Vázquez FJ & Rey-Planellas S (2023) Circadian rhythm of preferred temperature in fish: Behavioural thermoregulation linked to daily photocycles in zebrafish and Nile tilapia. Journal of Thermal Biology, 113, Art. No.: 103544.

Research centres/groups